Nexstar Media pulling the plug on CLTV cable news channel

CLTV WGN

CLTV, the 24-hour local cable news channel launched as Chicagoland Television on New Year’s Day 1993, is shutting down at the end of the month, Nexstar Media Group announced Monday.

Although said to be marginally profitable, the operation never achieved its full potential as “Chicagoland’s source for local news, weather and traffic” and eventually was eclipsed by other cable networks, digital news sources and social media platforms.

Noting that “the media landscape has changed dramatically” since CLTV debuted, Paul Rennie, vice president and general manager of WGN-Channel 9 and CLTV, said the cable channel’s resources would be shifted to expand local programming and news at WGN, including sports and politics.

CLTV

The cancellation comes three months after Dallas-based Nexstar Media acquired Tribune Media, parent company of “Chicago’s Very Own” WGN, CLTV and WGN 720-AM.

“Unfortunately, with news now available 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week across a variety of multi-media platforms, it has become increasingly difficult for CLTV to hold on to its audience and remain competitive, despite the high-quality of the local journalism it produces,” Rennie told staffers. “Ending production of CLTV will give us a chance to continue expanding local programming and local news here at WGN-TV.”

The real legacy of CLTV is its development of talent on the air (such as Ben Bradley, Peggy Kusinski, Dina Bair, Julie Unruh, Sean Lewis, Marcus Leshock and Paul Konrad, among others) and behind the scenes, including numerous producers and photographers.

About a dozen CLTV employees will be offered jobs with WGN, sources said, while another four or five are expected to be laid off.

Here is the text of Rennie’s announcement to staff:

All,

I want to let you know that today we made the difficult business decision to stop production of CLTV effective at the end of the year. I met with the CLTV staff this morning to let them know.

CLTV has had a great run since it first signed on 26 years ago, in January 1993, but the media landscape has changed dramatically since that time. Back then, there were only four networks, cable news was still in its infancy, and the Internet was just beginning. MSNBC, FOX News, and CNBC didn’t exist and the idea of getting news through a mobile device was unimaginable. There were no local morning news shows, and WGN-TV produced just two newscasts, the Midday News and the WGN News at 9. WGN-TV now produces more than 70 hours of local news per week—more than any other TV station in Chicago.

Unfortunately, with news now available 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week across a variety of multi-media platforms, it has become increasingly difficult for CLTV to hold on to its audience and remain competitive, despite the high-quality of the local journalism it produces. Ending production of CLTV will give us a chance to continue expanding local programming and local news here at WGN-TV. In the first quarter of 2020, we plan to expand weekend news further and add some new local programming focused on sports and politics. I’ll have more info on this expansion early next year.

While there will be a small reduction of staff as a result of today’s decision, most CLTV employees will have the opportunity to apply for open jobs at WGN-TV. For now, please join me in thanking everyone at CLTV for their constant effort and dedication to producing quality local journalism through the years. I am proud to have been a small part of CLTV’s history.

Paul